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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 174 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: "you" versus "your character'  (Read 1370 times)

Posts: 106

« on: April 24, 2009, 02:16:56 PM »

So I am designing a few rule books that I am going to publish myself. I am so accustomed to using other peoples' style guides, it is a bit a of challenge to settle on my own. I know I want to address the reader directly, since I prefer reading books written in that style. But some publishers make a distinction when speaking about when a player does and what the player's character does (i.e. You roll 5d6 when x happens" but "When your character takes a wound deduct it from his or her hit point total"). Personally, I kind of prefer just using the pronoun "you" in both cases. I just think it sounds less clunky. Does anyone think this is problematic?

Bedrock Games

Posts: 803

Kitsune Trickster

« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2009, 04:40:32 PM »

It makes sense to use "you" consistently throughout the text if trying to eliminate the concept of pawn stance in a game. It helps to make the players feel like they are really controlling the characters from within, rather than manipulating them from without.

The only issue I see is when you might try to describe something that happens in the game world compared to something that happens in the physical world.


If you fail, you might break your leg...

If you fail, make a note of any injuries on your sheet...

If the writing is consistent and well thought out, you shouldn't encounter too many of these problems though.

Just my 2cents...


A.K.A. Michael Wenman
Vulpinoid Studios The Eighth Sea now available for as a pdf for $1.

Posts: 91

« Reply #2 on: April 24, 2009, 05:52:16 PM »

I can't say I've thought about this much.  I tried writing a more formalized version of my rules to date, but I found that it was easier to simply write a quick reference with the barest description.  Until I feel that my rules are better filled out I probably won't try to write a a rulebook out of it.

When I was doing it, though, I think in many of those cases I would say things like, "If a character does X, then Y," rather than, "If you do X, then Y."  I would then give specific examples of play, and in that case I would have both players and characters.  For example, "Bob decides to play a northman named Zegg.  He rolls for Zegg's Strength and gets an 8..." or later, "Zegg encounters a locked door, and he can't pick locks and he doesn't have a key.  Bob decides to try and break the door down.  He needs a 62 or less and rolls a 54.  Zegg successfully breaks the door down with his axe."  Bob makes the decisions and rolls the dice, but Zegg is the one that actually carries out actions or is acted upon by others.  Personally I find these sorts of examples of actual play to be much better descriptions of how the mechanics work than the pages of paragraphs used to explain the same thing.

Phillip Lloyd
Daniel B

Posts: 171

Co-inventor of the Normal Engine

« Reply #3 on: April 24, 2009, 07:40:41 PM »

My Communications professor would agree with your approach in any case. Apparently, speaking directly to the reader by using 'you' makes them feel involved, and encourages active listening.. (or active reading?)

I'd tend to agree. I think you should go with your gut, with the exceptions V pointed out.

Arthur: "It's times like these that make me wish I'd listened to what my mother told me when I was little."
Ford: "Why? What did she tell you?"
Arthur: "I don't know. I didn't listen."

Posts: 1359

Conventions Forum Moderator, First Thoughts Pest

« Reply #4 on: April 24, 2009, 09:16:58 PM »

I try to scrupulously differentiate between player and character. I think it's most effective in Mouse Guard. I address the player as "you" when it works and is the clearest expression of a rule. I never conflate the character and the player, though. That's deeply problematic. So it's "you" and "your character." When your character takes a wound, you note it on the Injury line on the character sheet.


Posts: 7

« Reply #5 on: April 24, 2009, 10:34:12 PM »

More and more I'm leaning towards using just 'you.' It's punchier and while I personally prefer to know when I'm reading about what I'm doing as opposed to what my character is doing, I also don't have any trouble figuring it out if it isn't written that way. I've been writing sections mixed up, depending on to whom each section is directed towards - stats and rules towards players, abilities towards characters (since they use them), monsters and other rules towards GMs, and so on. I keep re-writing the same pages over and over, switching between second and third person and different ways of addressing the reader. On one hand, I am intentionally writing this to be accessible to a younger audience and I don't want to enforce the horrifying confusion between player and character that prevents some gamers from distinguishing between the two (go to a convention if you don't know people like that and, for some bizarre reason, want to). On the other hand, if the reader isn't able to figure out when I'm talking about them and when I'm talking about the papers in front of them, they probably aren't intelligent enough to do much roleplaying anyhow.
  I guess I'll have to go with the middle ground - F them and let 'em figure out 'who' I'm talking about, but put an explanation about keeping separate in. That's my favorite part anyways, writing more and making the whole thing longer. My partners will hate me for it. I can sleep satisfied now. Thanks.

Posts: 115

« Reply #6 on: April 28, 2009, 12:04:35 PM »

This is something I started to notice as I was working on a game. I ultimately decided to use "you" for the player and "your character" or "the character" to refer to character actions. It's annoying to write, but I think it avoids a bit of confusion. If it makes your game more understandable and thus easier to play then it's worth the effort.

mjbauer = Micah J Bauer
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